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Supreme Court rejects former ballerina's appeal

Published on 06 July 2011 12:30 PM

Supreme Court rejects former ballerina's appeal for basic right - care to go to the toilet

A former prima-ballerina, who had her night time assistance enabling her to go to the toilet withdrawn by her local council, has lost her appeal to the Supreme Court. 67 year old Elaine McDonald needs help following a stroke twelve years ago.

The London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea withdrew her night time carer last November, offering her incontinence pads instead, although she is not incontinent.

Age UK, which intervened in the court case, warned that today's 4:1 decision could have potentially devastating consequences for thousands of older people if other councils took similar decisions.

Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director at Age UK says: 'Today's decision is shameful.  Older people have a fundamental right to dignity and forcing someone to sleep in their own urine and faeces could not be more undignified.

'This judgement opens the door to warehousing older people in their own homes without regard to their quality of life.

'Care should not be just about keeping people safe.  It must enable them to live dignified and fulfilled lives.'

In its submission to the Supreme Court, the council claimed it was common practice to give people in  situations similar to  Ms McDonald's incontinence pads. Age UK believes that is bad practice and will continue to campaign to promote the dignity and privacy of older people.

Alex Rook of Irwin Mitchell solicitors who represented Age UK said: 'The submissions Age UK made to the Supreme Court in this case sought to ensure that local authorities follow the correct assessment procedures to establish an older person's needs and  to then put in place a lawful package of care. Whilst Age UK is acutely aware of the current difficult economic climate, the right balance must be struck between the rights of the individual and the interests of the community, and Age UK continues to find it difficult  to understand  how it can be rational or reasonable to expect an older continent person to use incontinence  pads rather than to assist  them to access a toilet.'

- ENDS -

Notes to Editors:

  1. Ms McDonald is a 67 year old lady, an accomplished ballerina, who suffered a stroke in 1999. The stroke left Ms McDonald with restricted mobility so that help is needed when transferring on and off the toilet. It also left Ms McDonald with a neurogenic bladder which means she has to urinate on average three times a night.
  2. Ms McDonald has had two serious falls while attempting to get on the commode on her own one resulting in a broken hip and a prolonged hospital stay where she contracted both CDiff and MRSA. She is medically unable to fit incontinence pads herself.
  3. Ms McDonald likes to be as independent as possible used to enjoy her evenings and finds it hard to be forced to go to bed at 8.30 every evening

Age UK

For media enquiries relating to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland please contact the appropriate national office: Age Scotland on 0131 668 8055, Age Cymru on 029 2043 1562 and Age NI on 028 9024 5729.

Age UK is the new force combining Age Concern and Help the Aged, dedicated to improving later life.

We provide free information, advice and support to over five million people; commercial products and services to over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and well being, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle. We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI (together the Age UK Family), our local Age UK partners in England and local Age Concerns. We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International.

Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798). Age Concern England and Help the Aged (both registered charities), and their trading and other associated companies merged on the 1st April 2009. Together they have formed the Age UK Group ("we").  Charitable services are offered through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity's trading companies, which donate their net profits to Age UK (the Charity). 

Media contact: Mallary Gelb or Liz Fairweather
Telephone: 020 30331682/ 0203 30331718
Out-of-hours: 07071 243243

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Last updated: Oct 06 2017

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